CHIEF ANTONGA BLACK HAWK - TIMPANOGOS NATION 1834 - 1870
Utahs' Black Hawk War; Last Ride Home
from Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace"
There are some truths about The Utah Black Hawk War, untold truths, that have been deliberately ignored and left out of mainstream history such as the Timpanogos Nation of the Wasatch, for example. The Timpanogos has not forgotten the years of plunder, poisoning of their water sources, or when their ancestors were brutally massacred at Battle Creek, Fort Utah, Bear River, and Circleville by Mormon colonists eager to steal their land.
The Black Hawk War was not a single event, but one that spanned twenty years between 1849-1872. There were over a hundred and fifty bloody confrontations between Mormon colonizers and the Timpanogos Nation, and forty-one occurred before 1866, the year "Mormon and Indian confrontations were raging in
all directions" according to Peter Gottfredson who lived with the Timpanogos during the war.
Phillip B Gottfredson, in collaboration with tribal leaders, shares the Timpanogos version of the Black Hawk War. Writing from the vantage point of the indigenous peoples of Utah is a reference point that has until now been ignored. Author of the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace, he has spent decades researching the Black Hawk War while living among First Nations people seeking to understand Native American culture.
"What’s the importance of learning about a war that happened a century and a half ago, and what does it have to do with our lives today you may ask?" said Phillip B Gottfredson. "The answer is if you are a member of the Timpanogos Tribe it’s a matter of life and death. A hundred and sixty years ago LDS church leader Brigham Young ordered the extermination of the Timpanogos, and the consequences of that action catapulted the Timpanogos Nation into near extinction. Not only was their population decreased over 90%, but they were also written out of Utah’s History. For the Timpanogos, the war never ended. Utah's history is very often whitewashed and romanticized. It's time to tell the truth. This is no small matter reader; this is a matter of grave concern."
In a poignant conversation Mr. Gottfredson had with Perry Murdock a council member of the Timpanogos Nation, and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara, Perry explained "Every day we are reminded of what our ancestors went through. How our families were torn apart. Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors’ graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing." In a nutshell—this was the cause of the Black Hawk War.
The time has come to bust the myths about the war, and stop stereotyping Utah's Native Americans. For example, Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk for whom the war was named, is demonized as a renegade warrior, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. When the most compelling story of all that comes out of the war is—Black Hawk’s heroic mission of peace.
Black Hawk was not the villain—he was the victim. Contrary to what historians would have us believe, the Timpanogos preferred peace over war. It was not about possessions and riches. They saw themselves as stewards of sacred land and fought to protect the sacred and their honor. And though they were not a warring Nation, if survival meant engaging in physical combat, they would do so.
Timpanogos' leadership consisted of seven brothers namely Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen. Antonga Black Hawk was the son of Sanpitch. These seven legendary leaders were referred to as "the privileged blood." They ruled every clan and village along the Wasatch. They were a powerful and prosperous nation highly respected by all in the area. They had long maintained trade routes from the Columbia River to the north to the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
From the Timpanogos perspective when Mormon colonists came to the Wasatch, they upset the sacred and natural order of all living things, killing the deer, elk, and buffalo. “White man’s horses, cows, and sheep eat Indian’s grass. White man burn Indian’s wood, shoot Indian’s buckskin, rabbits” they depleted the fish population and polluted the water. They cut down trees, diverted rivers and streams, and fenced off the land, which drastically altered their environment that they were solely dependent upon for food, medicines, and life-sustaining necessities.
Native American culture is a culture of values. The grooming of a War Chief, for example, requires time, the wisdom of Elders, and a deep commitment to the wellbeing of the tribe. Chief Sitting Bull said, "The warrior is not someone who fights, for no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is the one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."
Chief Wakara's nephew Black Hawk was but a boy when the Mormons came, and in time would become his Nation's War Chief under the leadership of his uncle Chief Tabby. Black Hawk's first responsibility was spiritual. As a chosen leader of his warriors, his responsibility was to always try to preserve life. He told his warriors to shed no blood, only in self-defense.
Black Hawk was by no means a 'renegade' as some characterize him. At a young age, he was schooled in the Jesse Fox school in Spanish Fork, Utah. He was able to read and write and spoke three languages Shoshoni, English, and most likely Spanish since his Tribe had long-established trade relations with neighboring Mexico. And as historian John Alton Peterson points out "Black Hawk had a keen understanding of Mormon economics."
Brigham Young called Black Hawk "a formidable foe" as a skillful leader he nearly succeeded in driving the Mormons out of the territory.
Being a strong leader came naturally. His charismatic charm befriended people from all walks of life and aroused in people loyalty with enthusiasm. Honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect were the virtues he lived by. Black Hawk by his example taught that love can overcome hate and hypocritical morality. One who respected himself and appreciated others because we are all human. He understood the natural order that all inhabitants of Mother Earth are connected, what Native peoples call "the circle of life." He loved unconditionally and forgave unconditionally, and that being born human makes you superior to nothing.
His elders taught that true freedom meant being in harmony with his fellow man and all that our Creator gave us. He fought tirelessly to protect the sacred, his people, and equality.
As a War Chief, 'taking coup' was a greater feat of bravery than taking a life. Leadership meant putting family and Nation above all else.
Black Hawk always offered up prayers before going into battle, with ceremony and dance. And as a survivor, he made offerings to the enemy's family and was cleansed in a holy ceremony.
"How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth" Gottfredson said. "These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America. But it's not about me, it's about the circle of life."
Gottfredson explains, "The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct living descendants of Creator. Chief Joseph said, 'We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." And I believe that was Black Hawk’s message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world. As he was dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach, he made an epic hundred-and-eighty-mile journey and spoke to Mormon settlers along the way pleading for peace—and to end the bloodshed. You didn't see the settlers do this. So, it took a greater man to do such a thing. This was Black Hawk's mission of peace, but it gets left out of history.
Q: Didn't the Mormons try to help the Timpanogos?
Quoting from "Walker's Statement to M. S.
MARTENAS "They were friendly for a short time" said Chief Wakara, "until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—they have been treated with much severity—they have been driven by this population from place to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites."
University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool explained, "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom."
Mormon leader Brigham Young is often misquoted saying “it is better to feed them than fight them.” Suggesting his intention was to treat the Timpanogos with respect and kindness. The truth is Brigham said, “It is cheaper to feed them than to fight them.” Either way, the important question is, was the Timpanogos Nation treated with respect and kindness?
In the end, Black Hawk's grave was robbed by members of the LDS Church at Spring Lake, and his mortal remains were put on public display in the window of a hardware store for amusement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Then later was moved to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.
And there's more—a lot more. Important information. The other half of the story, the Native American version. The legacy of the Black Hawk War and the effects of Mormon colonization on Utah's indigenous; all of which are essential to our understanding of Utah's true cultural heritage, yet it gets left out of Utah's one-sided history and school curriculum. Why? Is it because no one cared enough to ask Native Americans their side of the story, afraid of what they know? No matter what narrowness of mind or denominationalism we may have surrendered our commonsense to, there needs to be truth in education. Educators need to teach true Native American history as a regular part of American History. The truth must be told regardless of what happened.
Q: Who are the Timpanogos, and why have I never heard of them?
Why indeed? A lost Tribe of the Wasatch, Utah's history has failed to tell us about the twelve-thousand-foot mountain right in the heart of Utah that was named 'Mt. Timpanogos' in honor of the Tribe. In 1776 Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante named the majestic mountain 'La Sierra Blanca de los Timpanogos' (translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos).
Q: Are the Utes and Timpanogos the same Tribe?
For over a century, Utah's historians have either assumed or mistaken the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Colorado Utes. Whereas, early explorers never mention the name "Ute" in their journals. To learn more about the Dominguez and Escalante expedition visit our Timpanogos Nation; Utah's Black Hawk War page.
The Timpanogos are not enrolled members of the Ute Tribe and never were. They are two distinctly different Nations in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Colorado Utes were not in Utah until 1881 as "prisoners of war" 14 years after the Black Hawk War ended. When you read The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron page on this topic you will have clarity.
Q: So, who and what caused the Black Hawk War...?
Well, some say it was because "they stole our cattle." The truth is Mormon colonists were stealing land and murdering their people before the Timpanogos were stealing Mormon cattle. Again, there is far more to the story. To fully comprehend the inculturation of early Christian-led colonists that brought devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, it begins with the Doctrine of Discovery followed by Manifest Destiny. Christian Monarchs decreed that anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible, or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah, was deemed "heathens," "infidels" and "savages". Christians believed that they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin."
Blinded by their own inculturation, the Mormon church believed they had a divine obligation to convert Utah's Native Americans to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people" and would be forgiven of the sins of their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, the cause was the Lord, the reason that the Lamanites (Indians) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
"Utah's Black Hawk War is a story of genocide, paradoxes, and racism. There's no other way to explain it truthfully" said Mr. Gottfredson. "Brigham Young and his followers, many of who were recent converts to the LDS Church, had emigrated from Europe to North America to 'live in freedom the teachings of Christ' and instead spends more than a million dollars in church funds to ‘exterminate’ the Timpanogos Nation so they could have all of their lands for themselves. Then they re-write history laying all the blame on the Native peoples of Utah."
Topics & Stories by Category; Main Menu:
European Colonization | Doctrine of Discovery; Manifest Destiny...
Events Leading To War | Battle Creek; Fort Utah; Walker War...
Black Hawk War Period | The Black Hawk War; Circleville Massacre...
Post War Period | Black Hawk's Burial; Congressional Acts...
Black Hawk War Timeline | From 1847 to 1872...
Factoids | Interesting facts about the Utah Black Hawk War...
The Author: Phillip B Gottfredson
"My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a friend of Black Hawk and spent much of his youth living in the camps of the Timpanogos during the war. In 1919 Peter wrote a firsthand account of the Black Hawk War in his book Indian Depredations in Utah. Inspired by Peter's book, I wanted very much to know what his experience was while living with the Timpanogos."
"During the decades I spent learning from Native peoples throughout North and South America, it became obvious to me that Utah's Black Hawk War was the end of a sacred time—a tragedy for the Timpanogos that should be remembered and never forgotten. This was the motivation needed to write a companion book to Peter Gottfredson's book titled My Journey to Understand Black Hawk Mission of Peace." - Phillip B Gottfredson